Whether for partisan advantage or out of delusional utopianism, the jihadists win.
We can speculate endlessly on why Attorney General Eric Holder appointed a special prosecutor to investigate interrogation techniques and detainee abuse by the CIA, a charge already investigated by the Justice Department several years ago and deemed to be baseless or beyond prosecution.
Yet whatever the reason — whether misplaced idealism or partisan politics — this decision reveals the delusions and dysfunctions that afflict our culture and leave us more vulnerable to the enemy.
The most important cultural delusion is what one can call juvenile utopianism. This is the creation of unreal expectations and the attempt to realize them in a hard world of evil men and tough choices. Such a mentality measures an imperfect world of imperfect people — a world of chance, unforeseen change, and unexpected consequences — by the standards of an abstract perfect justice easy to imagine but impossible to realize given the persistence of an irrational, unpredictable human nature.
When these standards aren’t met, when the people charged with taking action, making hard choices, and choosing between the bad and the worse don’t measure up to this imagined perfection, then those who believe in the possibility of achieving their unreal expectations become angry and begin looking for scapegoats to punish — just like children when their inflated expectations are disappointed by reality.
The fight against jihadist terror has been the occasion for serial demonstrations of this peculiar cultural pathology. Many of us seem to think that a passionately committed enemy, one fired by absolute certainty that his terrorist murders are divinely sanctioned, can be fought according to exquisitely calibrated rules that will ensure no one, not even the enemy, suffers even psychological discomfort.
Hence the absurd, unreal standards of treatment the violation of which sparked the outrage over what went on in Abu Ghraib or in Guantanamo. Only by comparison to utopian fantasy, rather than to the more typical practice of human beings in similar situations, could the treatment of those prisoners justify the hysterical adjectives — “horrific” has been a favorite — used by the media and critics.
In reality, given what goes on every day all over the world (or in many U.S. prisons, for that matter), what happened in Abu Ghraib could be considered s sign of civilization’s progress.
Source: VDH's Private Papers